Braids, Deep in Hong Kong

“In my position I’m the slut/ I’m the bitch/ I’m the whore/ The one that you hate” Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s lyrics on Braids‘ Miniskirt are blunt and to the point, but with strong vocals and some mesmerising beats from friends and fellow band members Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith they hit home.

Ahead of the Montreal based three piece’s much anticipated return to Hong Kong for a gig at Hidden Agenda on the 7 March, bc spoke to Raphaelle Standell-Preston about success and the future.

With the immense impact and success of Miniskirt and Companion, how difficult is it /was it to begin writing again?
I don’t really feel like we have that much outside pressure acting on us so it’s been very easy to begin writing again. It’s our favourite thing to do so it’s what we most look forward to doing! Also we have a DIY label and are self-managed so there is no big shot label or team that we have to impress or provide for. It’s very chill 😉

How is the progress going on a new album? Where will it move musically and lyrically?
It’s been an interesting journey thus far. A lot has happened in the world since starting the record 6 months ago that have impacted all of us deeply. Being next to America we feel their struggle and it highlights here in Canada issues that have been left unattended to like immigration and Aboriginal rights, to name a couple.

We’ve been talking a lot in the studio about our position and what our responsibility is to our community and our planet. Lyrically these conversations have been coming out in little bits and pieces, it’s too early to tell what angle the record will take.

Also with the world feeling so tumultuous right now we’ve been using our music as a way to improve the mood or as a way to scream out or play out some of our frustrations. We’re writing better music than we ever have before, and I’m really excited to see how some of the songs change and grow after this tour in Asia.

Did you find that ‘success’ has created new pressures and expectations for the new album. Have those expectations/ pressures made it harder to create new material?
No pressures felt currently from any outside sources. It’s really just from ourselves and that we want to write better music because we all have it in us to.

Why do so many of your songs last 6 minutes plus (not complaining as I think they’re great, just curious.)
Hmmmm, I think it’s because we like going on musical journeys together. Also we never have a shortage of ideas. I think our difficulty is choosing which ideas to get rid of. We tend to be a little to precious with keeping things. This is something we’re trying to get better at… If it’s just good get rid of it! It needs to feel excellent!

Why do you think your lyrics resonates so well with men and women? Thank you, that’s kind of you to say. I think because I tend to write about the human experience a lot, and I often try to write in a gender neutral way, except for in Miniskirt… I took the angle that I am a woman talking about the female experience.

Do you find the increased options for music Spotify, Bandcamp, Facebook etc make it easier for a band to survive financially?
Absolutely not. Streaming music is the worst thing you can do for the financial survival and really the survival of a band. If you aren’t making money you can’t rent a space or pay for mixing or pay for the costs of putting out a record. It sucks that people think music should be free or $9.99 for ALL THE MUSIC IN THE WORLD. Do you realise how cheap this is!? With Spotify the average musician who isn’t Taylor Swift and can negotiate a higher price, is paid$0.006 and $0.0084.per stream of a track.

Meaning that in order to pay for one record which is $10, someone would have to listen to the tracks 1667 times. Have you ever listened to a track 1667 times!? It’s honestly the worst paying system ever. I can’t believe it’s gotten as big as it has. Yes it increases the bands ability to connect with a larger audience but then you are expected to spend the rest of your life touring as this is the best way to make money as a musician now.

It’s very different for artists like Drake or Rhianna, they make millions off of Spotify and Apple music, but the average band that pulls in 200-1000 people per show isn’t making the bulk of their money from people purchasing their music, it’s from touring their asses off! The best way to support musicians is to purchase their records at the show or to order it from their record label or to head to a local record shop. Also the more we support online streaming the fewer record stores are going to be able to survive, and record perusing is seriously fun and really important for local communities.

Touring globally do you find that audiences like the same songs or do you find different songs popular in different parts of the world?
I find our louder songs go over really well with American audiences. Our music can get very visceral and physical in America. Europeans tend to be superb listeners so we can get away with playing really delicate songs there. That’s really all I’ve noticed !

I read an interview (Consequence of Sound) where you said the songs on Deep In The Iris were written to allow you more freedom when playing them live. Are you enjoying touring Deep In The Iris/Companion more because they allow for more live expression, energy and emotion?
Absolutely! Touring Flourish // Perish was so hard because we wrote these really on the grid electronic songs that were so difficult to feel free when playing. A goal with Deep In The Iris was to be able to be lose and free with it. To be able to push and pull it and be human with it.

We don’t use any click tracks and nothing is on the grid. There are no long samples or loops so though we have a lot of digital gear on stage, all the playing is done in real time. It makes it not feel the same night after night. It’s very liberating.

As you’ve toured have you found that any of the songs have evolved in ways you didn’t expect?
Yes all the songs have grown in big and beautiful ways. I always wish we could rerecord the record after touring them for a 2 years. I guess that is the point of a live record! Something that I hope we do at some point 🙂

Some of my favourite Braids recordings are the live gigs from Knitting Factory, KEXP and CJSW. With the ease of releasing live recordings of gigs, why don’t you release your live shows? Especially as the performances are more likely to be different each show?
I think we will release something we are proud of at some point that is live.

What other artist’s song would you like to cover / record, play live?
I would love to play some Dolly Parton covers. But we’re not much of a cover band. I don’t think we will ever cover a song live. You’re only playing for 45 minutes – 1 hour usually and with our songs being as long as they are sometimes it doesn’t make for much time to spare 😉

Catch Braids live at Hidden Agenda on the 7 March, 2017

Braids
Support: So It Goes
Date: 8pm, 7 March, 2017
Venue: Hidden Agenda
Tickets: $320, $260 (Advance) from Ticketflap

I Hate Hamlet!

To be or not to be – that is the question facing celebrity TV actor Andrew Rally (Hamish Campbell). To be Hamlet in a prestigious production in New York’s Central Park, or not to be Hamlet and stick to what he knows best – phone-it-in acting on a cheesy but popular TV show.

His girlfriend (Kate Mulligan) and his agent (Kath O’Connor) want him to take the role; his Hollywood buddy (Mike Pizzuto) and real-estate agent (Jane Archibald) do not. As for Andrew, he’s just not sure he’s capable of the Bard. Plus he’s seriously worried about the slings and arrows of outraged critics!

Enter the ghost of John Barrymore (Neville Sarony), dressed in high Shakespearean garb and determined to help Andrew fulfill his actor’s destiny. What a piece of work is Barrymore! Noble in reason and infinite in faculty, and yet Andrew remains suspicious that Barrymore may smile and smile and be a villain.

Playwright Paul Rudnick had the idea for I Hate Hamlet! when he lived in John Barrymore’s apartment in New York in the late 1980s. This Hong Kong Players production is directed by Jodi Gilchrist.

So, what’s a man to do? It’s said that all the world’s a stage and each must play his part… the question is, which part?

Cast
Andrew Rally – Hamish Campbell
John Barrymore – Neville Sarony
Deirdre McDavey – Kate Mulligan
Lillian Troy – Kath O’Connor
Felicia Dantine – Jane Archibald
Gary Lefkowitz – Mike Pizzuto

Director: Jodi Gilchrist
Assistant Director: Sarah Kidd

I Hate Hamlet!
Hong Kong Players
Date: 1-4 March, 2017
Venue: Fringe Club, Fringe Underground
Tickets: $280 from www.art-mate.net

Grand Championship Preview: HKFC Ice v CWB Phoenix

After achieving a top-four league finish for the second season running HKFC Ice will take on CWB Phoenix in the quarterfinals of the Premiership Grand Championships.

HKFC coach David Wigley believes his side are on target to advance to a semi-finals match-up against unbeaten league champions Valley Black.

“At the start of the season our target was to secure fourth place in the league again, and we’re extremely pleased to have achieved that. We’ve been improving through the season, and the last two weeks have seen our systems really coming into place,” said Wigley.

HKFC Ice were a model of consistency in keeping their stranglehold on fourth place this season, but Causeway Bay came on strong in the second half to close the gap on their nearest rivals ahead of the final league match against City Sparkle. The Phoenix’s effort came agonisingly short as they couldn’t secure the bonus point win that would have leap-frogged them over Football Club in the standings.

“In our last game, against City, we really wanted the four tries [the bonus point] but they put up a good show, with a strong defence, and we were only able to score twice,” said Phoenix coach Ocean Chow.

The win saw Causeway Bay finish with a better win-loss record for the league campaign but Football Club, who dropped from a 4-2 record in January to finish at 5-7, had four bonus point wins and claimed fourth on points differential, 24 points against Causeway Bay’s 23.

The two sides split their meetings this season with HKFC securing a 22-14 win in October while Causeway Bay edged Club 12-5 last month.

Wigley believes that things are falling into place just in time for the big push. “Every time we play Causeway Bay it’s fiercely competitive. The two teams are evenly matched, but the squad is in good shape and we will be able to field as strong a squad as we’ve had all season.”

Adding to the toss-up, the match will be contested on neutral ground with the sides playing at Aberdeen.

“We haven’t played at Aberdeen for two years so it will be interesting to play on grass. The bounce of the ball is different, and it may come down to which team settles best on the surface. Against Causeway Bay, we give it our all. It is like a local derby for us. We met them last year at this stage and came through in what was ultimately a game of attrition,” said Wigley.

Both coaches agree that there isn’t much between the challengers. “With both sets of forwards going at it hard, this game is usually won or lost in the backs,” said Wigley.

Chow concurred saying, “Football club have strong forwards and a dangerous maul, but I think our backline gives us the advantage. Quick rucking is one of our strengths and we’ve been training for contact attack, which is necessary in a physical game like this. We need to play to our strengths with quick ball and offload.”

Wigley is preparing his team for a similar test: “The threat from their scrum is always tough. If we can neutralize that, we can work to our own strengths. We’ve been working hard on our defence at the ruck and breakdown. We also need to shut down their wingers, who gave us problems last year.”

With excitement mounting ahead of the must-win tie, Ocean Chow believes that the deciding factor may come down to mental more than rugby skills.

“It’s a matter of keeping focus. The mindset is crucial. It’s all about that desire. Saturday will be exciting. It will be close-fought, but we will win,” Chow predicted, as he hopes his Phoenix will be able to rise to the occasion.

Gai Wu Falcons and USRC Tigers will advance to the semi-finals stages, along with Valley, after City and Kowloon forfeited their matches against the second- and third-ranked league finishers.

For all this weekends fixtures click here

Additional reporting, photo: HK Rugby

Tantalising Taste of Australia

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Shrimp on the barbie and other homestyle Aussie tucker washed down the glasses of Penfolds and bottles of Crown and VB… It doesn’t get much more Australian than that. Added to regular range of dishes at Three on Canton‘s nightly buffet this tantalising Taste of Australia includes many dishes and meats you can’t often find in Hong Kong.

Australian Executive Chef Stefano Verrillo’s savoury grub includes emu, kangaroo, crocodile as well as shrimp. There’s meat pies, lamb chops, billabong stew, chicken parmigiana the OZ way and damper (a yeast free bread), Roaring Forties cheese and beetroot salad and coleslaw.

And for dessert soft moist Lamingtons, pavlova and Anzac biscuits… As well as ice-cream, fruit, cheese and all your buffet favourites.

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This Australian feast is only available until the 4 March as part of the regular buffet – 6:30-10:30pm $598/person ($648 on weekends). If you can’t wait, the daily snack menu has Australian burgers, meat pies and kangaroo skewers (all $98) available throughout the day.

Three on Canton
Level 3, Gateway Hotel, Harbour City, TST
Tel: 2113 7828
www.marcopolohotels.com

Women’s Rugby Quarter Final Fixtures – 25 February, 2017

Rugby photo: Gozar Images

Carnival to Open in Tsim Sha Tsui

Another new bar is set open at 8 Observatory Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Carnival from Sonrisa Concept Ltd the people behind Drunken Pot and Lai Bun Fu is set to open on the 28 February.

The 5,000 square foot venue which includes a terrace looks to make every day ‘fun’ and includes dart machines, slap cup and beer pong tables, lots of big screen TVs for live sports coverage and of course there’s a karaoke room.

There’s a range of fun carnival themed cocktails and shots. The signature Merry-Go-Round (pepper infused vodka, tomato soup, Worcester sauce, cayenne pepper and lemon juice), has eight shots served on a merry-go-round while the Ferris Wheel (Kwai feh lychee liquor, grape leaf liquor, Campari, syrup and cotton candy) has 12 shots served on a mini ferris wheel. Food is served from the Drunken Pot menu.

Carnival
6/F, 8 Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Opening Hours: 6pm to 6am
Tel: 3705-3985 www.carnivalbar.com.

Ex-Croall; McEwen by Antonio Stradivari

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Ahead of it’s auction at Sotheby’s Galleries London in March, the Ex-Croall; McEwen violin crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1684 is being showcased around the world.

One of only about 500 surviving Stradivaris and valued at over $12million local violinist Vincent Chua demonstrated the Stradivari’s beautiful sound by performing God Save the Queen variation by Paganini